|Jewel in prehistoric canal|
With regards to the topic of change, a very surficial example of the amount of change Native people have experienced can be seen when one considers population estimates in the City of Phoenix and compares that with population estimates in the year 1492. In 2015, the U.S. Census estimates that there were approximately 1.5 million people in the City of Phoenix. Take a moment to imagine the knowledge encapsulated in the city today amongst those 1.5 million individuals. Think of all the doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, construction workers and laborers, musicians, seamstresses, physicists, chemists, botanists, farmers, biologists, astronomers, chefs, etc. The knowledge that’s within the city today is monumental. It’s frankly spectacular and irreplaceable!
|Map of prehistoric canal system in Salt River Valley, Courtesy of Jerry Howard|
Compare those U.S. Census figures with estimates of population in the Americas in 1492. Some scholars estimate there were approximately 100 million people here in 1492. So if we take those numbers and try to draw some correlations, we could say that comparatively speaking there were enough people here in 1492 to fill about 66 cities the size of Phoenix. Even if we use conservative estimates and cut that number in half, 33 cities the size of Phoenix is still an immense amount of people.
After 1492, there was a huge drop in Native American population due to disease, genocide, and other factors. Some scholars estimate that by the year 1650 there were approximately 6 million Native people in the Americas. So basically we go population-wise…from 66 (or 33 if we use conservative estimates) cities the size of Phoenix to 4 cities the size of Phoenix in that short timeframe of approximately 150 years. Four cities!! Imagine the amount of knowledge that would be lost today if we subtracted that many people. It is incredible when we think of things in those terms. That lost knowledge represents unfathomable change in Native American cultures and communities throughout the continents of North and South America.
|Canal along south border of Pueblo Grande|
Despite the changes that have occurred in the past centuries, there’s still a vast amount of knowledge and enormous diversity among tribal communities today. It would be fantastic if the general public could realize that. It would be fantastic if the general public would see what is in front of them: strong, intelligent Native people who know the art of survival.
Senior/Associate Archaeologist at Logan Simpson
Jewel Touchin was born and raised in St. Michaels, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. She is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and an Arizona State University (ASU) alumnus. Jewel began her ASU studies as an Aeronautical Engineering major, but after much introspection and discussion with family members regarding Navajo thoughts and beliefs about archaeology, she graduated with a degree in Anthropology. She began her career soon afterwards and currently has more than 23 years of professional experience as an archaeologist in the Southwest. Jewel has worked in various development sectors including transportation, utility infrastructure, and sustainable energy. She has worked with two tribal nations, two engineering firms, and is currently employed with an environmental firm in Tempe.